Going to the Cinema

17:42 Paul Robinson 1 Comments

Going to the cinema is something you can enjoy all around the world. Unless you live in Saudi Arabia where they are banned because they distract people from following their religion.

There are a few cinema's in Abu Dhabi, all of which are be found in one of the many malls. The ticket price is comparable to the UK and you get all the same films too. You can also buy all the cotton candy and popcorn you want. This being the UAE, the portion sizes are huge. You can buy a huge vat of coke which must hold about four litres of syrupy stuff.

Things are a bit different once you get in the screening however. There are separate screenings for men and women. Talking is strictly forbidden should you disturb the Emiratis in the room. Also, the primary seats are reserved only for Emiratis. What makes it even more uncomfortable is.... I'm kidding I'm kidding; it's nothing like that. You believed me though didn't you?

There are some amusing things about watching a film in Abu Dhabi. Firstly the films often have subtitles. That's fair enough when it's Arabic subtitles, because the locals will want to know what's going on. But they also have French subtitles on top of the Arabic ones. It gets a bit hectic trying to watch a film with all that writing on screen.

Secondly, for some reason the cinema managers have the air conditioning turned ridiculously high. Me and my mates are sat there in our shorts shivering. It sounds stupid but I'm going to take a jacket next time I go to the cinema!

Thirdly, the audience cheer and clap. And not just at the end. Every time the main protagonist overcomes and obstacle or says something mildly amusing the audience whoop and cheer. It's totally surreal. Hollywood films are so predictable but the audience love it. They'll be cheering every 10 minutes like a bunch of trained seals.

What is really irritating is that people can be quite rude. There will be people talking to their friends, texting and shining light everywhere and even answering the phone! They'll get told to stop but just start up again in five minutes.

The cinema is universal entertainment but it's great to see how it's received in different cultures. I just wish that culture was a bit quieter.


More things I miss about England

06:05 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

4) The smoking ban - Everytime I go out here, even for a coffee, I knock a few days off my life expectancy through passive smoking and end up with smelly clothes.
5) Flat, uniterrupted pavements - You cannot understand how difficult it is to walk around here until you actually try it. Pavements here aren't designed for people to walk on, they're just there because the designers couldn't squeeze another parking space in. The actual pavements are full of foot-high kerbs, holes and random bits of concrete sticking out. I trip up loads, I don't know how I've not hit the floor yet!
6) Hipsters - I haven't had a chance to laugh at the latest fashion in weeks. Burqa and dishdasha fashion tends to be a little bit static.


Living in a hotel

16:44 Paul Robinson 2 Comments

I am living in an apartment/hotel. Benefits include the free breakfast, 24 hour room service and someone tidying up after me. Here's a few pictures...

The view from the 11th floor

Bidet - unused. Bit too European for me.

Minibar - check out the 0.0% Bavaria beer

Massive kitchen. Two whole hobs and a microwave.

UAE summed up in a picture. An air conditioning unit and an arrow pointing to Mecca


some thoughts

14:03 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

I went to get my via extended today. I had a thoroughly helpful PRO who picked me up from work, took my to the right place and pushed into all the right queues.

Getting you visa extended involves going to several different offices where civil servants check you passport, print a form out and send you to to the next office. After acquiring a small collection of forms we ended up back in the first office. It seems the civil servants (mostly Emiratis) aren't to concerned about the growing queues and all decide to take a break for breakfast. I was left sat at a desk, waiting.

The break lasted a good 30 minutes before they came back. The civil servant helpfully stapled my papers together and we were finished. I'm not sure why so many different people and offices were involved to be honest. Got to give people a job I suppose.

Anyway thanks to Hassan for sorting me out!

I also had to go to visit a potential client to pick up some documents. Unfortunately this was outside the city, pretty much in the desert. My taxi driver and I didn't have a clue where the office was and the map I had been provided with was not as helpful as it could be.

Eventually we found the office and I was in and out pretty quick. On the drive through the desert I realised that the road was lined with trees. These trees wouldn't naturally be here, there is a huge irrigation system preventing them from quickly drying out. The water comes from desalination plants which convert sea water into fresh water.

How much money does this country have if they can afford to maintain tree lined streets stretching out into the desert?


Aloft Pool Party

00:17 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

A few terrible photos from a top night out.


This country is built with migrant sweat

18:16 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

The UAE has undergone tremendous urban development since it's formation in 1971. Small villages which once supported small pearl diving and date farming communities have grown into skyscraper laden cities with huge populations.

Money earned from the oil trade allowed the development, but it's the toil of the migrant population that has built the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Approximately 50% of the population is South Asian, mainly people from the Indian subcontinent and the Philippines. I tried to learn a bit of Arabic before I arrived, but that was pointless. Every nurse, shop worker and taxi driver you meet is a migrant. You'd do better to learn Urdu, Hindi or Tagalog. I wasn't expecting a situation like this.

You can't fail to notice development in Abu Dhabi. There are building sites every few metres. After a few days I began to notice that all the workers got on the same bus to go home at the end of their shift. Not a public bus, something similar to a grey school bus. You notice lots of these buses driving along the streets.

Later I found out that these workers all live in shared housing on the outskirts of the city. They get transported between work and home. Their "home" is a shared room with six or more other workers. They barely make any money and have to work six long days each week. What money they do make pays for the roti bread they eat and the rest is sent to their families. They're not forced to stay, but there aren't any job opportunities back home.

It's not just construction workers. It's the same for nurses, security staff, taxi drivers...

To make matters worse, there are barely any employment legislation to protect these workers. They are usually forced to give up their passports to their bosses and often have their salaries paid late. The employer sponsorship system makes it virtually impossible for the workers to visit home or to have relatives visit the UAE. Health and Safety on building sites is minimal. We joke about it in the UK but workers die out here.

We couldn't possibly judge because as a nation, England has exploited people in the past. But as individuals we really should be grateful for what we have in the West. We complain we cannot afford a new car or that our boss is making us work on Saturdays. We don't know how lucky we are.

I look into the bus transporting the workers and everyone is fast asleep from a ridiculously long shift. I speak to the taxi driver and he hasn't seen his family in several years. I'm sat within touching distance of the taxi driver but our worlds couldn't be further apart.


Things I miss in England

15:40 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

Aside from missing friends and family, there's a few less important things I miss too;

1) The sound of rain on the window - it doesn't rain here, in the summer anyway
2) Good manners - obviously a quintessentially British trait, they just don't bother out here
3) People laughing in the street - the locals seem to be a bit serious


Corniche beach after work

18:39 Paul Robinson 1 Comments



07:39 Paul Robinson 1 Comments

A few evenings ago I went and got a haircut.

You all know that I hate getting my haircut. I hate having to talk to some random stranger for half an hour while they do the complete opposite of what I asked for.

Well it's a bit different in Abu Dhabi.

I went to a little "saloon" around the back of one of the towers near my apartment. There were just to Indian guys watching cricket in there. One of them got up when I walked in and showed me to the chair. I was pretty pleased when I saw that there was a TV in-front of the mirror! Unfortunately I had to watch some Bollywood film for 5 minutes before the two Indians guys giggled to themselves and put Lost on for me.

In Abu Dhabi they put this strange tape around your neck that attached to the apron-thing, so there is not chance of hair getting down your collar. And the electrics looked pretty dodgy too, but apart from that it was fine.

The guy didn't speak much English, but through the power of pointing we managed to communicate, and he did it just as I asked for. I thought hairdressers just did what they wanted?

I also didn't have to chat to him; which pleased me. The fact that we didn't speak the same language might have had something to do with it.

I was pretty pleased with the haircut. Quick, quiet and the equivalent of £4! I was a little bit shocked when he offered me a head massage though. I said no, but he still insisted on doing something to my scalp. I can only describe it as him cracking his knuckles on my skull for two minutes.



19:01 Paul Robinson 2 Comments

I have to walk past this demolition on my way to work every day. I feel really "safe" when I see the thorough and impenetrable guard fencing they have used around a suitably large "clearance area"...

A person couldn't fit through those gaps of several metres, surely?

It gives me confidence that I would not get injured, even though there's fairly large chunks of concrete all over the pavement.

Well they haven't hit anyone yet, have they?

The workers are so confident in their safety facilities they don't mind people walking past while whole walls from the top floor come crashing to the ground.

I definitely didn't jump out of my skin the first time it happened!!


Clouds in Abu Dhabi

17:04 Paul Robinson 1 Comments


First experience of the city

20:07 Paul Robinson 1 Comments

I have recently arranged for the translation of my business cards into Arabic at the Abu Dhabi Legal Translation Centre (ADLTC). Unfortunately you can't pay via an invoice, you have to turn up in person. It's also worth bearing in mind that only the main highways have road names and the internal roads within blocks aren't named.

So I looked for my translation companies address on the ADLTC website. Their helpful contact page described them as "Behind Al Noor Hospital". I got a taxi up to the hospital and started looking for the translation office.

I couldn't see it at all, and after five minutes baking in the midday sun I went into the hospital to ask for directions. They didn't know what I was talking about, but pointed me down a random street.

Walking down the street I realised every single business on this street provided translation services! I went into one and asked did they know where I could find the ADLTC. They were happy to sell me translation services, but once I said I was looking for a specific company, they all suddenly became "new to the company" and didn't know the area. I stepped into the sun and tried the next office and the exact same thing happened again!

Eventually someone pointed the ADLTC out to me. It turned out to be on the mezzanine floor of a building and all the branding was different too. A total needle in a haystack.

In the UK you can easily do all this online, or via email. Over here, I had to take an hour out of my life, contribute to the already jammed roads by getting a taxi and bake in midday sun!

Nothing is easy out here if it can be made difficult!


Just call me Alan Partridge

09:18 Paul Robinson 0 Comments

I'm living in an "apartment-hotel", which has it's good sides and it's downsides.

I get my breakfast made everyday, but I do get asked every six seconds do I want a cup of tea or coffee.

I noticed I didn't have an oven in my apartment. Which is pretty poor, but I thought oh well, at east I can have beans on toast. Unfortunately I don't even have a toaster so I had to have bean sandwiches for tea. What made it even worse was the fact I bought cheapo local beans. They had no tomatoes, no sugar or salt in them. It wasn't the best meal I've eaten.

A positive is that I get a free newspaper everyday. (free as in my company are paying for it) and I also have arabic cable TV. Which is great for UK sports. I've even managed to watch an episode of Seinfeld, butI can't see what all the fuss is about!

There's also a gym in the hotel. I've been the only person using it the past few days. I thought "great my own person gym"... so I felt like a right arse when someone walked into the gym while I was checking out my (still small) biceps in the mirror!

I already get referred to as Mr Robinson in the hotel, the guys here know me. It wont be long before I before I start having mettings round here...